Losing people: a linguistic analysis of minimisation in First World War soldiers’ accounts of violence

Book chapter


Penry Williams, Cara and Rice-Whetton, John 2019. Losing people: a linguistic analysis of minimisation in First World War soldiers’ accounts of violence. in: Laugesen, A. and Fisher, C. (ed.) Expressions of War in Australia and the Pacific Language, Trauma, Memory, and Official Discourse Camden, London Palgrave. pp. 17-42
AuthorsPenry Williams, Cara and Rice-Whetton, John
EditorsLaugesen, A. and Fisher, C.
Abstract

This chapter examines the First World War letters and diaries of Australian soldiers for insights into the relationships between language and violence, focusing on accounts of violent actions and the deaths these caused. Analysis from a corpus of writings from 22 soldiers demonstrates around two-thirds of accounts utilise linguistic resources to minimise or downplay the realities of violence. Two main approaches are generally used: figurative language (euphemism and metaphor) and language that downplays human involvement (passive voice, simplified register, nominalisation/light verb constructions, and the use of inanimate nouns in place of people involved). Our exemplification and analysis of these strategies provides insight into both soldiers’ experiences of violence and death and how they made sense of these experiences. The chapter thus adds to the understanding of First World War vernacular writing, contributes to existing scholarship by using a linguistic method of analysis, and more broadly considers the way violence is discussed.

KeywordsFirst World War; Letters; Diaries; Language and violence; Linguistics
Page range17-42
Year2019
Book titleExpressions of War in Australia and the Pacific Language, Trauma, Memory, and Official Discourse
PublisherPalgrave
Place of publicationCamden, London
Edition1st
SeriesPalgrave Studies in Languages at War
ISBN9783030238902
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-23890-2_2
Web address (URL)https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-030-23890-2_2
hdl:10545/623643
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All rights reserved
File Access Level
Open
Output statusPublished
Publication dates18 Oct 2019
Publication process dates
Deposited02 Apr 2019, 08:16
Accepted18 Mar 2019
ContributorsLa Trobe University (Victoria, Australia), University of Derby and University of Melbourne (Victoria, Australia)
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